Perfect for autumnal weekends or rainy days, the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is a great way to switch kids on to the threat of our oceans and how we can all play a part in protecting it. Plus after one entry, you can return free for the rest of the year!
The first reason and it’s a biggy is that the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is a charity DEDICATED to marine conservation. And I mean dedicated. As in the entire place is geared towards educating you and the smalls to the wonder of our oceans, the perils sea creatures face from humans and how we can make a change. From highlighting local dangers such as the fragility of ‘super’ seagrass, or explaining the marine food chain, to championing the shark species (encouraging us to defend not destroy) the National Marine Aquarium, set up solely for the purposes of education, conservation and research, hugely impressed me. I’m not a fan of aquariums or zoos, but if I can see it’s a huge influencing drive in changing attitudes and behaviours like this one, then I can only see it as a positive move.
We learnt all about The Community Seagrass Initiative, a project led by the National Marine Aquarium in conjunction with Plymouth University, and why seagrass is so important to UK waters. Everyone can do their bit at http://www.csi-seagrass.co.uk
2. LOCAL INHABITANTS
The National Marine Aquarium actually engages you in how fascinating the creatures of Britain’s coasts are. Lets face it Britain’s sea inhabitants aren’t as sexy as coral, sharks or turtles found in warmer climes but what the National Marine Aquarium does so well is present our waters in an exciting, appealing way. The first zone you discover on entering the aquarium (after the café!) is the ‘Plymouth Sound’ area. Here you can spot rock pool dwellers, from starfish, sea scorpions, shrimps and anemones to lobster and weever fish. We loved the magnifying domes, which allowed the girls to zoom in and get up close and personal with some of the occupants.
Here we learnt that starfish can re-grow legs or that the best thing to do if a weever fish stings you is to immerse it in warm water to break down the protein in the sting? (Good to know for those in North Devon, Croyde particularly!).
Meet this pretty fellow & his other rock pool friends in the Plymouth Sound zone, brilliant for showing kids what's in our waters.
3. KID FRIENDLY
The aquarium is super kid friendly. The layout is easy with each zone leading into the next, starting with native waters and cleverly leaving the shark wow factor until almost the end. Exhibits on conservation are tactile, interactive and fascinating and are EVERYWHERE, matched with colourful facts & figures painted on the walls.
Bo loved the fishy projector floor!
For example the SUPER SEAGRASS exhibit has a specially designed tablet game to learn and test the kids.
Minnie learning about the importance of seagrass on tablet games
In the EDDYSTONE REEF zone (the Eddystone Reef is a reef 19 miles off the coast of Plymouth) there’s a huge colouring in area where our two joined a mass of other children happily colouring in marine life. This tank boasts the largest single viewing panel in the UK. Like a mammoth movie screen, the viewing panel is simply matched with rows upon rows of chairs to quietly sit and watch - very therapeutic!
Watch shoaling mackerel, groups of bass & pollock, bullhuss sharks, smoothhound sharks, and colourful cuckoo wrasse in the Eddystone Reef tank - the largest single viewing panel in the UK
4. IT’S GOT IT’S OWN OCEAN LAB
My eldest loves science. At 8 years old she’s convinced she’s going to be a scientist whether that be inventing potions or saving the world. She was wowed by the fact that The National Marine Aquarium has it’s own Ocean Lab. Actually my youngest likened it to Octonauts as well so it struck a chord with both of them. Here you can peer live at marine scientists going about their work. Large information boards detail the different ways in which marine scientists carry out research and monitor the impact from natural occurrences and human activity. All every important and inspirational stuff.
Minnie watching the scientists go about their business
The Atlantic Ocean tank, almost at the end of the Aquarium is where you’ll find the sharks. Slightly obsessed with sharks, us humans whether we fear them, loathe them or love them, are certainly drawn to these apex predators, which attract visitors by the thousand. This is the deepest tank in the UK, with more than 2.5 million litres of water. As you enter the zone you’ll walk 10 metres under the tank. Above you through glass panels you'll be able to view rays, barracuda, lemon sharks and sand tiger sharks glide over you.
Always the biggest draw - sharks! Did you know coconuts kill more people each year than sharks?
I was intrigued by what the ‘Shark Show’ would entail given that the aquarium is so heavy lead in conservation. So we sat and waited with scores of other families in the demi-tunnel for the show to begin. I needn’t have worried, the sharks didn’t perform and the emphasis was again on education. The talk, starting in a Butlin’s type manner, (I can’t hear you!) got the kids revved up before telling us the shocking statistics that humans kill over 100 million sharks each year! Curious killers more deadly than the sharks are then disclosed to disbelief from the audience (coconuts & toasters!). It's true sharks get bad press so it's great to see The Atlantic Ocean zone focus on dispelling the many myths associated with these iconic creatures and to drive home the message of why sharks are so important.
Minnie checking out the multi layered teeth system sharks have. The Aquarium even does Sleeping with Sharks evenings where you can bed down in your sleeping bag with Mum or Dad & watch the sharks til you drop off. The next date is Friday 28th October & costs £40.00 a child
If it's our job to educate and inspire our children to protect our earth and ocean, there's no better way of doing it than the way this Aquarium does it. Plus for the price of your ticket you can enter as many times as you want in the year (apart from bank holidays).
Highly recommended! Make sure you leave 3-4 hours to go round.
National Marine Aquarium Prices
Family Pass - on the day £46.00 (2 adults/2kids or 1 adult/3 kids)
- advance ticket £39.10
Adult - on the day £14.95
- advance ticket £12.70
Child - on the day £10.95
- advance £9.30
Further information call 0844 893 7938 or visit www.national-aquarium.co.uk
The Family Freestylers received free entry into the National Marine Aquarium but all opinions are our own.
The Family Freestylers are us - the Nixon family, who relish travel adventures both near & far